May 15, 2019
By Frank Ammirante
2018-19 Toronto Raptors Vs Milwaukee Bucks Season Series
Oct. 29, 2018 – TOR 109, MIL 124
Dec. 29, 2018 – MIL 104, TOR 99
Jan. 5, 2019 – TOR 123, MIL 116
Jan. 31, 2019 – MIL 105, TOR 92
NBA Eastern Conference Finals Series Matchups
Starting Lineups & Bench
PG- Kyle Lowry/Fred Van Vleet
SG- Danny Green/Norm Powell
SF- Kawhi Leonard
PF- Pascal Siakam
C- Marc Gasol/Serge Ibaka
INJURIES: OG Anunoby
PG- Eric Bledsoe/George Hill
SG- Khris Middleton/Malcolm Brogdon
SF- Giannis Antetokounmpo/Pat Connaughton
PF- Nikola Mirotic/Ersan Ilyasova
C- Brook Lopez
Breaking Down The Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have been carried by Kawhi Leonard in these playoffs, as he’s led them with 31.8 PPG on 53.9 FG% and 40.8 3PT%. He’s also played fantastic perimeter defense, which is something he might have to do more of in this series. It’s possible that head coach Nick Nurse will have no choice but to use Kawhi to help slow down Giannis. This could potentially take away from Kawhi’s offensive impact, since he could potentially need to exert more energy on defense. Due to this concern, it is especially vital that the rest of the supporting cast improves their play in this series. If guys like Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Danny Green do not contribute more on the offensive end, then the Raptors will be in trouble. I think that Siakam will have more space to operate in this series, since the Bucks do not have the same rim protection that Philly had with Joel Embiid. Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet also will not have to deal with the length of Ben Simmons or Jimmy Butler, which will make it easier for them to get off their shots. The Raptors missed a ton of open looks against Philly. This is a team whose 3PT% improved significantly after acquiring Marc Gasol. You have to think that some of these open looks will start to fall. Having said that, the Bucks had the best defensive efficiency in the NBA during the regular season (104.9). They have kept up that strong defense in the playoffs, leading all teams with a rating of 98.2. It’s going to be tough for the Raptors to score points consistently, which makes it imperative for their supporting cast to do a better job in this series.
Breaking Down The Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks ran through the Celtics after losing Game 1, outscoring Boston by an average of 13.75 points in their ensuing four wins. Giannis is the most dominant force in the NBA right now. He’s able to get to the basket at will and dominate in the paint. The Greek Freak is a terrific passer, giving him the ability to kick it outside if defenders close in on him in the paint. Milwaukee has a gang of shooters, with Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Ersan Ilyasova, Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, George Hill, Brook Lopez, and Pat Connaughton all capable of knocking it down from long distance. Eric Bledsoe also does a great job of driving the lane. The Bucks use their great length with Giannis and Middleton to help stifle opponents with terrific defense. They also have a great offense, ranking 4th in offensive efficiency (113.5) during the season and 2nd (113.4) in the playoffs. The Bucks have been able to use deeper rotations in the playoffs due to their numerous blowout wins, so their stars are well-rested. Malcolm Brogdon returned from injury in Game 5 vs. Boston, so he is still getting eased in, but he’s a another weapon for coach Bud Budenholzer to use against Toronto.
VERDICT: Bucks in 7
I think that the Raptors’ supporting cast will play much better in this series. The Raptors have more playoff experience, but the Bucks have more depth and a better coach. This series will come down to the coaching and homecourt advantage. This is going to be a battle of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Playing Game 1 On www.statementgames.com? My Top Three OVER/UNDER Basketball StatementGames Picks
10 Point Pick: Milwaukee Bucks will WIN by 6.5 points
The Raptors are coming off of an emotionally-draining series win with a buzzer beater in Game 7. The Bucks are well-rested, having not played since last Wednesday. This is a tough spot for Toronto here in Game 1.
9 Point Pick: Toronto Raptors UNDER 106.5 points
I have a feeling that the Raptors will come out flat on the road following such an emotional win. Their offense has struggled lately, so I’ll go with the UNDER here.
8 Point Pick: Milwaukee Bucks Three PT Percentage OVER 30.5%
I think that the Raptors will focus their attention on Giannis, leaving open shooters for kick-out passes from the Greek Freak.